Tourism Cannot Exist in Isolation; It Has to Help the Communities in the Area
What at its essence does sustainability mean to Jetwing?
“Jetwing has always given precedence to sustainability, with this we stay true to our founding philosophy of treating our associates well, being mindful of the environment, involving local communities, and creating an experience for guests. We believe in doing the right thing by the planet and its people while running a profitable business and this can be seen across the properties with the initiatives taken under the Jetwing Hotels Sustainability Strategy”.
Does being sustainable equate to being profitable when it comes to hotel operations/investment?
“Yes, although maybe not immediately. For instance, technologies such as solar PV, vapor absorption chillers would require high initial investments but it is recoverable in operations – from the savings achieved. Here we have to look beyond the short term financial gain. Also, as customers become more aware they expect ‘green’ vacations – guests like to feel that they are enjoying a ‘guilt free’ vacation”.
How is the global hospitality industry approaching the issue of environmental pollution?
“The hospitality industry has incentive to take care of the environment as it is heavily dependent on it – tourism activities promotes and relies on the local environment, natural resources, ecosystem services etc. Guests today are more aware of the impact the sector has and are pushing for accommodation/logistics providers to be more environmental friendly in their operations. As a result businesses themselves have realized their intrinsic duty by the environment and take its protection seriously. This encourages the hospitality industry to minimize the negative impact created on the environment and take on board more environmental friendly operations”.
When did Jetwing engage and implement sustainable practices? Is it a core part of the Jetwing Strategy when new hotels we conceptualized etc?
“From the very beginning, in fact Jetwing’s founder Mr. Herbert Cooray always used to say that “tourism cannot exist in isolation; it has to help the communities in the area”. That was back in the 1970s, and has remained true ever since. Whilst the technology and practices we use currently are a necessity to preserve and protect the environment, being sustainable meant that the human element needed to be looked after as well.
When developing a new project introducing sustainability features are considered along with the aesthetics and functionality of the hotel at the planning stages. It is discussed with the consultants, in-house engineering team and financiers, in order to balance these components.
Initiatives in new developments are not one off but most often has been tested and proven technologies/practices that have been implemented across the group. For instance Jetwing Yala or Jetwing Lake was built from ground up to be the benchmark in sustainability based on the lessons learnt from practices at its sister properties. The difference when in it comes to newer installations has been the scale/magnitude of the project and subsequently the scale of impact it has had”.
How does Sri Lanka fare in comparison to the rest of the world when it comes to sustainable operations in the leisure sector?
“Strategic, planned sustainability is somewhat of a new concept to the hospitality industry in the country. It is surely work in progress as it is an emerging trend, but definitely at the forefront of sustainability possibly in the South Asian region. Sustainability issues are not isolated – as interest in Sri Lanka continues to grow as a destination, the growth of the industry can be ensured to be in a sustainable manner through joint, concentrated efforts from all stakeholders. In light of protecting the natural resources of this precious island almost all stakeholders in the leisure sector have turned to sustainable operations”.
Is there anything more Jetwing can do?
“There is always more to be done – sustainability is the journey, not the destination. Scope of sustainability as a discipline and its integration into business strategy is continuously expanding. We will keep looking at bringing in better technologies and introducing new strategies as they become available, while also working on improving our exiting initiatives”.
How much support is there from government in terms of encouraging investment in sustainable technology/ practices etc.?
“Government agencies help liaise with international NGOs and donor agencies who are willing support developing countries introduce sustainability technologies and practices. We have received support from government agencies such as the Sustainable Energy Authority, Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, Waste Management Authority, to approach such NGOs, agencies – who otherwise as private sector entities we would not have been able to directly receive grants and loan schemes from. This support is not limited to financial terms but also extends to technical terms – where the industry is kept updated on novel technologies in developed countries via government or liaising international agencies.
Also, with the introduction of different nationally sponsored award schemes – the private sector entities are encouraged to go for sustainable technologies/practices with the benefit of gaining recognition and marketing mileage”.
Is being carbon neutral something Jetwing is aiming for?
“Carbon neutrality at operational level is achievable and Jetwing Hotels is working towards it. Even at the moment over 50% energy requirement for our hotels is provided via renewable energy sources (or effectively carbon neutral energy sources)”.
What is Jetwing’s greatest result/achievement when it comes to sustainability?
“Sustainability at Jetwing was not an introduced philosophy but rather how we have done things right from the inception of the company. For over 40 years Jetwing has managed keep its sustainability drive – continuing to evolve and getting better. Jetwing has constantly been in the forefront of introducing green practices, breaking barriers in the form of innovation.
For example we have converted a barren land into the first man-made wetland nature reserve ever to be created in Sri Lanka – Jetwing Vil Uyana, home to a conservation site for the grey slender Loris and Fishing Cat and many other distinct native species naturally attracting to the area. We also have Jetwing Kaduruketha the first agro-tourism resort in the country set amidst 63 acres of paddy fields where we have an on-going working relationship with the local farmers encouraging them in their cultivations. And in terms of technology we have the vapour absorption chiller – a sustainable alternative to powering air-conditioning – installed at Jetwing Lagoon in 2012, was a first in the Sri Lankan hotel industry. There was a considerable risk at the time of installation, as no other hotel had ever tried it before; but now it’s becoming more popular among industries”.
What is (should be) the hospitality industry’s contribution in the sustainable development of communities and in supporting the local economy?
“Hospitality businesses would not be able to successfully run in the long term without support from the locals. Involving local communities in operations, not just provides sustained support to enable the development and empowerment of these communities, but also establishes the hotels and operations as an integral part of the local community – as a mutually beneficial exercise. Most importantly it provides direct job opportunities and it has an indirect economic/social impact by means of strengthening local supply chains – monetary benefits of tourism activities cascades to the community members via local procurement of goods/services, exposure to different cultures and lifestyles – allows opportunity to showcase local/traditional arts and crafts, cuisine, etc and local youth empowerment e.g.: Jetwing Youth Development Project (JYDP) to equip underprivileged school leavers with marketable skills”.